WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore and the West Orange Scholarship Fund hosted the Harvest Moon Principal Scholarship Cocktail Party Saturday at the Wilshire Grand Hotel to raise money for college-bound high school seniors.
The harvest-themed event was held at the Loft, a wide ballroom in the local hotel, where dozens of tables were set up for the numerous guests in attendance. Each table was set up with candles and crops like gourds and pumpkins, in addition to the various displays around the room that contributed to the autumn atmosphere.
For $65 each, attendees dined on appetizers and an open buffet filled with sliders and kabobs among other fresh-grilled gourmet dishes. At the opposite end of the room, two cash bars served drinks throughout the evening.
In keeping with the spirit, many, including Principal Moore, donned cowboy hats as they walked around and danced to the country music played by DJ Flo on the dance floor at the center of the venue.
About a dozen donated raffle prizes were up for grabs, ranging from Broadway tickets to Giants apparel and other fashion accessories. A 50/50 raffle gave an opportunity for attendants and the fund alike to earn money.
"It's such a warm room, filled with people putting their dollars toward helping students advance on to higher education, whether it be two-year schools, four-year schools, technical schools, or automotive schools," WOHS Principal Hayden Moore said of the scene.
Being the first event of its kind for the Scholarship Fund, Moore credited his secretary Debbie Zarro and his own "principal's committee" for bringing the evening's festivities into fruition.
"I think it's important as a principal to put forth the effort for the students in my school, because I truly care about them," he added.
"The night was totally up to and beyond my expectations," said Zarro.
The West Orange Scholarship Fund helps to provide several thousand dollars in scholarship money awarded at the end of the school year to several students of all socioeconomic classes, including those with special needs, seeking to pursue post-secondary education.
"I'm here tonight because it is vital to support school events, especially when they involve Mr. Moore and his programs," said Matt Mongelli, an attendee who also serves as vice-president of another one of the high school's organizations, the Music Boosters. Representatives from the group were among the scores of guests present at the cocktail party.
"I think putting something like this together is one of the most important things a principal can do to give back to the community," said Alina Cannao, a guest who herself works as a school principal. "The money raised from these events goes very far for certain students that need the extra money to go to college."
Moore and the Scholarship Fund have hosted other events to raise money in the past such as the Master Chef Competition and Bowling Night, and they plan to host more events over the course of the school year to support members of the Class of 2016.
Austin Bartola is a student at West Orange High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into West Orange.